Sooraj Barjatya, the gentlest of souls, would enact out a mutlitude of characters as well as hum songs with lyrics, thoroughly impressing Madhuri Dixit into doing Hum Aapke Hain Koun! Once, I had this awful challenge of narrating a script tp Kangna Ranaut and after that to Lara Dutta.
There was a time when Dimple Kapadia would say, “If I don't fall asleep during a script narration that means it must be good. And if I haven't asked for black coffee, it must be very good. And if I break into tears or uncontrolled laughter, the script must be outstanding.“
If I'm citing the case of DK (that's what she calls herself fondly) this Sunday, it's to clue you in about Bollywood's unique system of story narrations. In Hollywood, by contrast, a script is sent to an agent, it is read by the star -read as in `read' in solitude -and then the agent sends in a rejection slip or accepts the offer, conditional to the gazillion dollar fee, and sundry conveniences (including private jet planes to fly to and fro from locations).
In Bollyville, no one reads scripts. The tradition is to either pitch a story idea -or a DVD -and if the star has heard of it or better still loved it, and thinks he can do more justice to the role than a Johnny Depp or Di Caprio, bingo! Commences an arduous process called script development which the director helms, with a few or many co-writers.
The first draft is narrated to a Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan or for that matter, Rajeev Khandelwal. If they respond grimly, there's trouble ahead.
Inputs, suggestions, commands take over. Any scriptwriter, who says that he hasn't ever brooked any form of interference, is suffering from memory loss. Really.
The umpteenth and finalised draft never quite achieves the shape or size of the famously bound script. More often than not, writers are even reduced to playing the part of `sounding boards'. They listen to those suggestions from the stars and producers, and sundry associated.
Writers stick smiles on their faces, but seethe within. Extra punches and `clap-worthy' (hate that word) one-liners have to be sprinkled over the script's pages like salt and pepper over fried eggs.
Directors-cum-scriptwriters must have a gift of the gab. In fact, sometimes I wonder how the reticent Rajkumar Hirani exists in a trade which requires ancillary skills.
Oratory powers are a must. Plus kilos of patience to return to the star's home or office or story sittings.
Not so long ago, Rajkumar Santoshi was the champ. The manner in which he narrated the most commonplace of plots was super-dramatic, as if he had come up with a Sholay-eAzam. Santoshi, goes the lore, would be accompanied by assistants who would hammer out the background music with their knuckles on wooden desks in the star's study room.
When Santoshi paused, there would be stunned silence. And wah-wahs, naturally. Sooraj Barjatya, the gentlest of souls, would enact out a mutlitude of characters as well as hum songs with lyrics, thoroughly impressing Madhuri Dixit into doing Hum Aapke Hain Kaun! No one quite compares to this writer-director in narrative skills, off screen and in his peak days, on-screen as well.
Karan Johar, whenever he completes a script, has these reading conclaves with his assistants who're infallibly tear-eyed during the emotional scenes, of which there are many.
Once, I had this awful challenge of narrating a script to Kangna Ranaut and after that to Lara Dutta. I found myself chirruping away like a sparrow on a ledge, on separate afternoons. In return, the ladies looked at me stone-faced. Not surprisingly, then, I returned to writing columns. At least, I don't have to read them out emotively... as if I was the actor and they the directors.
Khalid Mohamed acclaimed journalist, film critic and film director keeps track of the latest in the world of cinema.